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By F. Holme 

Brush and Pencil 

Vol. VII 

JANUARY, 1 90 1 

No. 4 


Few American painters have attained wider or more substantial 
popularity than Daniel Ridgway Knight. I say American painters, 
advisedly. Upward of thirty years of residence abroad, and of inces- 
sant work on French scenes and subjects, would lead many, perhaps 
to class Mr. Knight with the ex- 
patriated disloyals who have found 
more charm and profit in foreign 
than in American art circles. But 
the artist to-day is as enthusiastic 
an American as he ever was. His 
residence abroad was due primarily 
to the accident of study, and suc- 
cess in his career is responsible for 
its permanency. 

The reason for Mr. Knight's 
popularity is not far to seek. The 
trite epigram that it is the pres- 
ence of qualities, not the absence 
of faults, that gives value to a work 
of art, expresses a truth that the 
artist early recognized. The stern, 
the grewsome, the terrible, doubt- 
less have a legitimate place in art, 
but it is the pictures of winsome 
qualities that people wish to buy 
and live with. 

These are the essential char- 
acteristics of all of Mr. Knight's 
canvases, and the wisdom of his 
adopted policy is evidenced by the fact that his paintings have 
brought him medals and competence. 

True, he is for the most part the painter of a single class 
of models — his demure little peasant-girl with her wooden shoes and 
picturesque costume appears and reappears in his pictures. 
His backgrounds are prone to be pleasing vistas of hill, valley, and 
stream, or flower-dashed meadow, all subordinated to the main 
figure in the foreground for which they serve as a setting. But one 
can readily understand that with a pretty model, and such delightful 

From a Photograph 




scenery as that in 
which the Seine 
valley abounds, un- 
told charming com- 
binations can be 
made; and in mak- 
ing these combina- 
tions the artist hafe 
been indefatigable. 
It might puzzle 
the casuist to ac- 
count for Knight's 
love of the dainty 
and beautiful ex- 
cept on the theory 
of reaction. His 
early surroundings 
were shorn of every 
semblance of the artistic. His parents were Quakers, and his early 
home in Philadelphia, where he was born, was more straightlaced 
and serious than attractive. It was a home of "thees" and "thous," 
of simple manners, of inflexible rules. A ban was placed under the 
parental roof on pictures and music, and not a wall was brightened or 
an hour beguiled by either. Few men who have won distinc- 
tion with the palette and brush have started under less favorable 

Knight, after leaving school in Philadelphia, was entered as an 
apprentice in a wholesale hardware house — another Quaker establish- 
ment as rigid in its 
rules and as unbend- 
ing in its discipline 
as his home. He was 
early given to un- 
derstand that the 
proper fijnction of 
an apprentice was 
to toe the mark 
with deference and 
punctuality and to 
devote himself to 
the worldly gain of 
his employer. He 
acquitted himself as 
a Quaker boy might 
be expected to, and 
fostered his love of knight's glass studio at poissy 



art in secret by copying in pen and ink engravings from books he 
borrowed from the Franklin Institute library. 

One of these boyish efforts, which took the evenings of six weeks 
to complete, is still in his possession. It has appreciated greatly 
in value, in the artist's estimation at least, since it was originally sold 
to his sister for twenty-five cents and a bunch of grapes. 

By Daniel Ridgway Knight 

Knight owes his start on his professional career to his grand- 
father, who, Quaker that he was, admitted taking pleasure in 
looking over these youthful drawings. One day he showed a selec- 
tion of them to a friend, who insisted on submitting them to certain 
dealers and critics. The sheets went the rounds of Philadelphia, and 
were warmly praised, and the grandfather was convinced that, in view 
of Ridgway's talent, he himself was .justified in abetting the boy 
in following a course his father deprecated on the ground that 
painting was the pursuit of light-minded and fast-living people. 

The sturdy Quaker's opposition, therefore, was broken, the hard- 
ware-house apprenticeship was given up, and young Knight was 



permitted to enter the classes of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine 

One year was spent in that institution, working from the antique 
and from life, and the first strictly professional work done was 
to execute a large number of crayon portraits, life-size, during his 
holidays at Chambersburg. After another season spent at the 


By Daniel Ridgway Knight 

Copyright, Goupil & Co. 

Academy, the artist's father caught something of his own enthusiasm, 
and urged him, since he had chosen to study art as his life-work, 
to go to Europe and take the best course of instruction obtainable. 
He offered to lend the money necessary for that purpose, and shortly 
afterward, with parental sanction and support, young Knight was 
settled in Paris. 

He there entered Gleyre's Atelier, the largest in Paris at that 
time, and which readers of Trilby will remember from Du Maurier's 
graphic descriptions. He passed the examination, and became also 
a member of the ficole des Beaux Arts. He spent three years 
of close study, drawing at the Beaux Arts and painting at Gleyre's, 
and then passed a winter in Rome, studying at the British Academy, 
returning to America with well-filled portfolios. 


By Daniel Ridgway Knight 

Copyright 1900, Manzi, Joyant & Co 

Plate Five 



Knight then took a studio in his native city, Philadelphia, painted 
portraits and genre pictures, and also conducted a class of lady pupils. 
About this time he married Miss Rebecca Morris Webster, and 
resolved to bend every energy toward compassing another period 
of study in Europe. He fortified himself for this undertaking 
by securing a number of orders for pictures from prominent Phila- 
delphians, and with 
the funds for a pos- 
sibly extended resi- 
dence abroad in 
view, he and his 
young wife set forth 
and reached Paris 
in 1 87 1, when the 
city was still suffer- 
ing from the effects 
of the Commune. 

The brilliance 
and gayety of the 
capital, however, 
had little attraction 
for Knight, or per- 
haps he was too wise 
to yield to the 
charms and distrac- 
tions of Parisian 
studio life. So, 
shortly after the 
birth of his eldest 
son, in 1873, he 
moved with his fam- 
ily to Poissy, a 
pretty, picturesque 
town on the banks 
of the Seine, where 
lived the great 
French artist Meis- 
sonier. An acquaintance was made with Meissonier, which ripened 
into a warm friendship, and ever afterward Knight acknowledged the 
French painter as his master, and did much of his work under his 
direct supervision. 

No struggling artist ever had a kindlier and more helpful mentor. 
The relation of adviser and pupil began from a chance scrutiny 
of some of Knight's summer sketches by Meissonier, who admired 
them, but frankly pointed out their elements of weakness. The 
French master suggested that if Knight would remain in his vicinity, 


By Daniel Ridgway Knight 

Copyright 1898, Boussod, Manzi, Joyant & Co. 



and would devote 
himself to the paint- 
ing of a large pic- 
ture of local scenery, 
he would give him 
his "conseils." It 
was under these cir- 
cumstances that the 
"Lavenses" .was 
commenced, and it 
was under Meisson- 
ier's guidance that 
it was executed. 
This picture was 
Knight's first great 
success. It was ex- 
hibited at the Paris 
Salon, and was 
bought by F. O. Mat- 
thiesen, of New 
York, in whose col- 
lection it still hangs. 
Good landscapes, 
good models, and 
good advice from 
his neighbor, Meis- 
sonier, soon ban- 
ished all thought 
from Knight's mind 
of ever returning to 
his Paris studio and associates. He openly avowed the great French 
painter his master, and even after success had crowned his efforts was 
accustomed to go to him humbly for counsel on all occasions, both in 
the selection of his subjects and in the execution of his work. 

In a sense it was a new world for Knight, and one in which 
he took supreme delight. The charming scenery along the Seine 
has few equals from an artist's standpoint, and Knight reveled in its 
beauties. He chose all his models among the peasant-girls from the 
suburbs of Paris, who, by the way, are very different from those made 
familiar to the public by Millet and Breton, being of a brighter 
and more refined type, which is due, doubtless, to the neighboring 

Knight's boyhood experience now stood him in good stead. 
It had inculcated habits of industry; and now that he was pleasantly 
settled in a painter's paradise, he was an indefatigable worker. 
Picture followed picture, each apparently adding to the success of its 


By Daniel Ridgway Knight 

Coyright 1899, the Artist 


predecessor. "The Vintage at Chanteloup," "The Harvesters' 
Repast," "The Water Carrier," "Une Halt," "After Breakfast," 
"Un Deuil," "The Portionless Girl," "The Gossips," "The Inventor," 
"Burning Brush," "Potato Harvest," "Hailing the Ferry," "The 
Shepherd and his Friends," "The Idler," "First Sorrow," "Crossing 
the Brook," "The Declaration," "Spring," "Le Soir," were produced 
in rapid succession, and were all exhibited at the Paris Salon. They 
all represented scenes of Poissy and its neighboring villages. 

Those familiar with Knight's paintings will recognize in them 
a sort of family resemblance, due to likeness of models and similarity 
of landscape backgrounds. Reference to the accompanying repro- 
ductions will give a fair idea of the character of his work. His 
peasant models are sufficiently alike to be sisters, his gardens are 
all rich with the flowers for which Poissy and its environs are 
famous. And it is the exceptional picture in which one does not 
catch a glimpse of 
the broad stream of 
the Seine winding 
its course through 
the valley. 

In a word, 
Knight recognized 
the artistic value of 
his peasant-girl 
models and of the 
scenery in which he 
found himself, and 
after his first suc- 
cesses was politic 
enough — one might 
almost say cour- 
ageous enough — to 
duplicate his can- 
vases, with only 
such modifications 
as were necessary 
to differentiate the 
pictures without de- 
stroying the family 
likeness. In gen- 
eral, his pictures are 
all beautiful bits of 
scenery, giving op- 
portunities for the 

finest effects of the LA BERG£RE DE R0LLEB0ISE 
landscapist s art, By Danie i Ridgway Knight 



with one or more of his pet-girl models in the picturesque garb of the 
neighborhood in the immediate foreground, so as to give an equal 
opportunity for artistic portraiture. 

Bright of color scheme, happy of conception, and skillful of execu- 
tion, they are preeminently the type of pictures that please, and one 
is forced to recognize in their similarity, not a paucity of ideas 
or a limitation of artistic ability, but a shrewd perception of popular 
taste and a consistent adherence to a fixed policy. 

As the number of canvases increased, however, Knight himself 
felt the need of variety. He had not exhausted the landscape possi- 
bilities of Poissy and its vicinity, but he decided to move farther 
down the river, still keeping the comfortable studios in his Poissy 
chateau, a large, rambling, picturesque Louis XIII. building, of which 

he had become the 
owner, and which 
he had taken great 
pleasure in filling 
with a well-chosen 
collection of rare 
old furniture, tapes- 
tries, and bric-a- 
brac. Rolleboise, a 
tiny village between 
Nancy and Vernon, 
afforded the variety 
the artist desired, 
and thither he went 
with his eldest son, 

Half Rolleboise 
is on the bank of 
the Seine and the 
other half is on the 
hillside. Midway 
between the upper 
and lower parts of 
the town Knight 
secured a house, 
with a fine garden, 
and built himself a 
studio. The Seine 
makes one of its 
great bends just in 
front of the house, 

THE IDLER ™ d h ° m thC Studi ° 

By Daniel Ridgway Knight Olie Commands a 



By Daniel Ridgway Knight 
Copyright, the Artist 

view of the far- 
stretching plains, 
dotted here and 
there with woods 
that change their 
garb from green to 
russet with the sea- 
sons. The Poissy 
chateau has since 
been regarded as 
home, and the 
Rolleboise house 
as the workshop, 
in which, of course, 
the main occupa- 
tion is the produc- 
tion of pictures, 
varied only with 
fishing, rowing, 
shooting, and sailing, in which Knight delights, as a relaxation. 

Life in both establishments is simple and purposeful. Aston 
Knight, the eldest son, himself a landscape painter, is a constant 
companion of his father at Rolleboise, and the two are literally 
hermit artists. Mrs. Knight and the two younger boys visit them 
now and then for days or weeks at a time, and Aston and his father 
occasionally abandon their work for a month's residence at Poissy. 

In this way "La Bergere de Rolleboise," "A Summer Evening," 
"On the Terrace," "The Gardener's Daughter," "Curiosity," "July 
Morning," and "Quietude" were painted in the Rolleboise retreat. 
They are all Salon pictures, and among the most popular of Knight's 
canvases. Here, too, were produced many of his less important 
compositions. Rarely have any of his pictures been exhibited except 
at the Paris Salon, owing to the fact that most of his larger canvases 
have been sold as soon as exhibited at the Salon, and many of his 
minor works have been engaged before they were finished. 

One usually lives contentedly and happily where successful occu- 
pation begets honors and easy circumstances, and while it is to be 
regretted that Ridgway Knight has laid himself open to the charge 
of becoming a voluntary exile from home and home inspiration, one 
can scarcely wonder at the fact that he has thus prolonged his foreign 
residence for upward of thirty years. His Poissy chateau is an ideal 
home and his Rolleboise studio an incomparable workshop. 

At the Paris Salon he was awarded an "honorable mention" and 
a gold medal; at Munich he won a gold medal; at the Paris Universal 
Exhibition of 1889 he carried off the second medal; he was honored 
with the Cross of the Legion of Honor in 1889 and the Cross of the 



Order of St. Michael of Bavaria in 1892. In addition to these 
honors, he was awarded a Columbian Medal at Chicago in 1893; 
second medal at Antwerp; and Grand Medal of Honor at the Penn- 
sylvania Academy of Fine Arts at Philadelphia. He glories in the 
fact — as many will frankly admit he has a right to — that he is 

By Daniel Ridgway Knight 
Copyright, Braun, Clement & Co. 

a painter of popular pictures, in which happy conceptions success- 
fully worked out meet public approbation and command public 

Knight, moreover, is not one of the painters who is unknown in his 
own country. Several of the leading museums in the United States 
are now in possession of pictures painted by him. The Pennsylvania 
Academy of Fine Arts has his " Hailing the Ferry"; the Milwaukee 
Museum has "The Shepherd and his Friends"; the Brooklyn Museum 
has his "La Bergere de Rolleboise," and the Union League has his 
"Summer Evening." All these pictures, and many another, have 
been made known to the public by engravings and other modes 
of reproduction. Most of the pictures herewith reproduced are new 

By Daniel Ridgway Knight 

Plate Six 



By Daniel Ridgway Knight 

to the American public, having been made from photographs for- 
warded direct from Poissy. 

The popularity of Knight's pictures has made his canvases 
in demand by publishers for reproductive purposes. Most of the 
accompanying pictures, it will be noticed, are copyrighted by leading 
art concerns, and thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of fine 
reproductions of them have been bought by people who could not 
afford to indulge in the luxury of the originals. 

The artist is still in the prime of life, and with his energy and 
indefatigable industry it is safe enough to predict that art lovers 
may reasonably expect many another canvas from him as happy 
in conception and dainty in execution as those enumerated. 
The broad sweeps of the Seine have not all been explored, nor have 
all the picturesque nooks and corners about Poissy and Rolleboise 
been painted. And if, perchance, the pretty peasant models made 
famous by Knight's canvases should age perceptibly, one would 
pardon the artist, and even abet his persistence, if he were to induce 
younger sisters, or perhaps daughters, to step into their wooden 
shoes and pose in their cast-off garments. 

Harold T. Lawrence.